Telecommuting : what are your options?

Telecommuting is a dream. It is estimated that over two thirds of Canadians would like to work from home. Long commutes to work, rising gasoline prices and the desire to balance work and family life lead them to find an alternative to their current working methods. 

The development of computers and the internet has made working at home more readily available. It has also expanded possibilities and made telecommuting a reality.

Fundamentally, a home worker is employed by a boss, but at home. Statistics Canada reports that more than 1.3 million Canadians did some or all of their work from their home in 2005. The employee can set up his activity at home permanently or continue to travel to the office on some days.

Some industries are more suited to working at home: computer graphics, computer programming, telemarketing, virtual secretarial, internet research, word processing…   Services, information technology and manufacturing are predominant. These jobs can lead to a real career. They also allow people to be employed who would not, under other circumstances, be able to have a job, such as housewives or people with very limited mobility.

TELECOMMUTING

Working at home is being used more and more by businesses, most often for one or two days per week. The tools used to put employees in touch with each other are multiplying and improving: the internet, telephone, fax, email, document sharing and data transfer software…  Today these advanced technologies let people stay in constant communication with the office and their superiors. As a result, more and more duties can be performed from home. Practical implementation depends, however, on the boss’s subordinates and company philosophy.

ADVANTAGES FOR THE EMPLOYER…

Some critics of telecommuting cite loss of control over productivity as the main risk for companies. However, more and more bosses are becoming convinced. According to a study published by BMO recently,  23% of Canadian companies claim to offer telecommuting to their employees.

US researchers from the National Bureau of Economic Research also conducted a comparative study at Ctrip, a Chinese company with 16,000 employees and found that teleworkers’ performance was 13 percent higher.

The reorganization that telecommuting requires allows for savings in operating costs. With clear objectives, an employee’s productivity often increases significantly once he is working from home. He arranges himself to be as efficient as possible and improves his performance. Absenteeism is rare and the time saved on travel is valuable.

…AND FOR THE EMPLOYEE

Financially, the employee avoids costly travel. He enjoys a certain autonomy which however requires meticulous management. Working at home offers him flexibility to reconcile his working life and family life. By planning his days to the hour, the worker has more time to take care of his family. He can also cope with the unexpected more easily.

Away from the office, the employee can sometimes feel isolated and forgotten. The company must monitor and show him that his work is valued. But if he finds his balance and establishes a rhythm that suits him as well as his boss, the worker will be motivated and therefore effective in his job.

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